REIGNING Warrnambool Galleywood Hurdle winner Saunter Boy will contest a feature flat race in either Sydney or Queensland before running in the $300,000 Grand National Hurdle at Sandown on August 7.
Trainer Ciaron Maher said Saunter Boy may tackle the $400,000 Brisbane Cup at Eagle Farm on June 11 or the $130,000 Stayers Cup at Randwick on June 25 as a lead in to the Grand National Hurdle.
"We're still looking at finalising a couple of things about which path Saunter Boy takes going into the National Hurdle," Maher said. "He's going to need a good hit-out on the flat before the National Hurdle. The Brisbane Cup is over 3200 metres, while the Stayers Cup is over 2600 metres. I'm hoping to have things sorted out within the next few days."
Maher, who trains in partnership with David Eustace, said the star jumper had pulled up well after his impressive victory in the Australian Hurdle on May 22.
"I can't fault the fitness of Saunter Boy," he said. "The horse is in great shape. We're keeping him in shape by varying his work at the beach and in the stables. He's in top condition. I thought his win in the Australian Hurdle was excellent on the back of his gutsy victory in the Galleywood Hurdle. We'll give him the flat run in either Sydney or Brisbane and we'll then look at the Lafferty Hurdle at Warrnambool or Drechsler Hurdle as a stepping stone to the Grand National Hurdle."
Saunter Boy has won eight of his 11 jumps starts, including last year's Lafferty Hurdle and Houlahan Hurdle.
Plans to improve safety for horses and people at the Warrnambool racecourse are progressing well, according to Warrnambool Racing Club chief executive Tom O'Connor.
As part of the master plan for the course, an equine precinct and machinery area is being set up on the back of an on-course training complex for Tom Dabernig.
"Works are going well," O'Connor said. "We've moved the machinery shed and barrier shed to the north-west section of the course. We're waiting for the steel to arrive for the machinery shed while the barrier shed is complete and there are still a few things to do at Dabernig's stables, but he's moved his horses into the complex. Once everything is complete, we'll have the two different areas, which will offer improved safety for horses, our staff and all racing participants who go to the equine precinct."
Honest Warrnambool-trained galloper Morrissy has been retired after an unplaced run at Caulfield on Saturday. Morrissy, who was formerly trained by Troy Corstens, won five races for the Flemington trainer before being transferred to Warrnambool trainer Simon Ryan for his last two starts.
"Troy sent Morrissy to Warrnambool for a change of environment," Ryan said. "He came to me in top condition. I gave him two runs, including the one on Saturday, and he failed to fire. Morrissy had a wind operation about 18 months ago. He appears not to be finishing his races off. His owners have decided to retire the horse. Morrissy had been good to his owners, winning more than $600,000 in stakemoney."
Meanwhile, Ryan has spelled Morrissette following her unplaced runs in the Auraria Stakes, Australasian Oaks and the South Australian Classic in Adelaide.
"We've sent Morrissette to the paddock for a good break," he said. "She made the trip from Warrnambool to Adelaide for those three runs and that probably knocked her around. We'll give her a good break and try and find some suitable distance races later in the year for her."
Morrissette has won more than $74,000 in stakemoney from her 10 starts.
Young Warrnambool trainer Adam Chambers predicted more wins are in store for Duhlata after the colt scored a two-length win over Floyd's Prediction in a maiden over 1550 metres at Mount Gambier on Sunday.
Duhlata, with Dean Holland in the saddle, was well-backed to win the maiden on the strength of good runs at Terang and Warrnambool at his first two outings.
"I went to Mount Gambier quietly confident Duhlata would run well," Chambers said. "He put in a big run at Warrnambool last time. He didn't have the best of luck in the Warrnambool maiden and his debut run at Terang was good. The form from the Warrnambool maiden has turned out to be pretty strong. Dean said there's plenty of improvement in Duhlata. He's a very clean winded horse, which makes me think he's going to be better over more ground."
Tequila Storm, a stablemate of Duhlata, was just beaten in a benchmark 58 over 900 metres.
"I thought it was a good effort," he said. "There's not too many horses that win their maiden and win their next start. Tequila Storm will be better suited to a bigger track and a bit more distance than the 900 metres, which she ran over today."
From two starts, Tequila Storm has picked up more than $13,000 in stakemoney for her connections.
Apprentice jockey Tatum Bull will be on the sidelines for nine meetings after being suspended by stewards at Ballarat on Sunday. The suspension related to a careless riding charge following her ride on Saint Eustace. Bull's suspension commenced at midnight on May 29.
DEFENCE FORCE: might have been unlucky to run third in an 1100-metre race on Saturday. The lightly-raced galloper can improve in similar company next time.
SIR POSITANO: he's ready to win after a slashing effort at Caulfield. He's had three runs from a spell and will be hard to beat next time going on Saturday's run.
DARALINA BELLE: promising mare who lost no admirers at Caulfield. She ran third in an 1100-metre contest. Won three of her seven starts and should be back in the winners stall shortly.
PETER HARDACRE: underrated Mount Gambier trainer who flies under the radar. Hardacre produced Thrill To Kill to win at nice odds in Adelaide on Saturday.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.